Lost Creatures: A Journey Through the Fossil Record of Queensland

Lost Creatures introduces you to Queensland’s long-lost creatures that lived here over the last 250 million years. Meet some of these inhabitants, including dinosaurs, giant marine reptiles and megafauna unique to Queensland. Marvel at their immense size and diversity.

Muttaburrasaurus langdoni (1969) by Peter Waddington, Queensland MuseumQueensland Museum Network

Queensland has undergone great environmental upheaval and climatic change over millions of years. Learn about how these creatures evolved and adapted to these changes, then ultimately faced extinction.

Lost Creatures at the Queensland Museum

The view shows the layout of the exhibition Lost Creatures in the Queensland Museum which highlights some of the amazing fossils found in Queensland. The display covers the last 250 million years and shows some of the animals that lived during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras.

In this panorama we are highlighting two of Australia’s most spectacular Cretaceous dinosaurs, Muttaburrasaurus langdoni and Kunbarrasaurus ieversi.

Muttaburrasaurus langdoni (Cretaceous Period)

Muttaburrasaurus belonged to a group of plant-eating dinosaurs known as ornithopods. The nasal area of the skull was enlarged and probably used to call to other individuals. Muttaburrasaurus langdoni was discovered by Doug Langdon, in 1962 near the town of Muttaburra. 

Kunbarrasaurus ieversi (Cretaceous Period)

This skeleton was found in 1989 near the town of Richmond,  north Queensland by Ian Ievers. It is currently the most complete dinosaur known from Australia and grew to about 3 metres (10 feet) long. Kunbarrasaurus was an armored, plant-eating ankylosaur.

Pterosaurs from Australia (Cretaceous Period)

Few bones of pterosaurs have been found in Australia, mostly jaws, teeth and limb bones. The forearm of a pterosaur was modified to allow for flight with a wing supported by a single extraordinary long finger, hence the common name ‘pterodactyl’ meaning ‘wing-finger’. 

The Cretaceous Inland Sea of Australia

During the Cretaceous Period (125-100 million years ago), a large inland sea covered much of western and central Queensland northern New South Wales and South Australia. This sea has been called the ‘Eromanga Sea’. Living within this sea were giant sea creatures.

Platypterygius australis, this ichthyosaur.

A streamlined hunter, ichthyosaurs are the most common marine reptiles found as fossils in western Queensland. Their jaws had rows of over 80, interlocking, ridged teeth for grasping fish and squid. This specimen was collected by James Edgar Young in the 1930s.

The Richmond Plesiosaur

This remarkable specimen was discovered by Ian and Robert Ievers near Richmond in north Queensland. It is currently the most complete plesiosaur found in Australia.

Plesiosaurs had  long neck and a long narrow snout full of interlocking teeth used to catch fish, squid, turtles and ammonites.

Invertebrates of the Inland Sea

Living alongside the giant marine reptiles were many species of invertebrates, including clams, ammonites, giant squids and belemnites.

Lark Quarry dinosaur trackways, Winton Queensland

Over 3000 footprints, made by approximately 130 dinosaurs are preserved in a layer of rock that is about 95 million years old. It is possible to visit the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument south of Winton. 

Fibreglass replica of Lark Quarry trackway

This is a replica of part of the Lark Quarry trackway. The original research recognised 3 different types of dinosaurs, and the site was interpreted as a dinosaur stampede. The dinosaurs ranged from small chicken sized animals to over 2 metres tall at their hips.

Original trackway section

A small portion of the actual trackway from Lark Quarry is preserved and is attached to part of the replica. The dinosaur tracks appear as depressions in the mudstone surface. You will notice that the small trackways are heading in the same direction.

Australia’s Megafauna ‘Giant Animals’.

After the extinction of the dinosaurs (except birds) a gap in nature was left. Giant animals unique to Australia evolved,  including giant marsupials, massive lizards and crocodiles. 

They evolved a huge size over the last 10 million years but then went extinct around 40,000-30,000 years ago.

Giant Kangaroos

The skeleton of a modern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) sits next to fossils of its extinct relative,  the Titan kangaroo (Macropus titan).

World’s largest marsupial (Diprotodon optatum)

At about 2.5 tonnes, Diprotodon, was the world’s largest marsupial. It is distantly related to living wombats. Like wombats it was a plant eater and like all marsupials it had a pouch. Diprotodon has been found as fossils across Australia. 

Giant Goanna Lizard – Megalania

Growing to 5 metres (15 feet) in length, Megalania (Varanus priscus) was the largest land-dwelling lizard to have ever lived. It was unique to Australia and its closest living relatives include the Komodo Dragon and Lace Monitor.

Queensland’s Jurassic park

The oldest fossilized bones of dinosaurs from Australia come from the Jurassic Period. Queensland has most of the important fossils from this Period in Australia including dinosaurs, amphibians and plesiosaurs. 

Australia’s Jurassic sauropod dinosaur, Rhoetosaurus brownei

Rhoetosaurus was found near Roma, southern Queensland. It is a sauropod dinosaur with a long neck, massive body and long tail. The skeleton is incomplete with the neck and head missing, Rhoetosaurus grew to about 12 metres long.

A giant Jurassic amphibian Siderops kehli

Siderops was an amphibian with a massive head, long body and tail, similar to a salamander of today. It was probably an ambush predator, similar to crocodiles today. This specimen was discovered by property owner, Colin Kehl in the 1960s.

Freshwater plesiosaur

Found close to the site of Siderops a partial skeleton has been found  belonging to a plesiosaur. While most plesiosaurs lived in saltwater some also lived in freshwater. Using x-rays palaeontologists can tell that this individual was not fully grown.

Megafauna of the Darling Downs

Long after the mass extinction event 65 million years Australia was once again dominated by giant animals we call megafauna. Giant goannas, marsupials, turtles and wombats roamed the country – many of them on the Darling Downs, southern Queensland. 

This gallery features fossil remains including specimens from Diprotodon optatum, the marsupial lion Thylacoleo carnifex and the giant turtle Ninjemys owenii. 

These giants are now extinct. Palaeontologists are researching the many possible ways as to why these giants are no longer with us.

The Marsupial Lion – Thylacoleo carnifex

Thylacoleo carnifex was the largest ever marsupial predator, around the size of a lioness with powerful jaws and enormous shearing cheek teeth for slicing flesh and snapping bone.  Thylacoleo had the greatest bite force of any marsupial.

Giant Horned Turtle Ninjemys owenii

This large, extinct, land-living herbivore could not retract its head into its shell. It used its horned head and club tail for defense. Its large size and armor would have kept it safe from most predators.

The Largest Marsupials

Diprotodon was the size of a rhinoceros – three metres long and two metres high at the shoulder it is the largest marsupial that ever lived. They were browsing animals that lived in herds in the open grassland and woodlands throughout Australia.

The perfect picnic spot?

Perhaps a creek scene some 45,000 years ago on the Darling Downs, giant mammals come to quench their thirst but danger lurks as the predators are about. 

Thylacoleo, the flesh eating marsupial lion, prepares to pounce on its next victim whilst Megalania ambushes a young Diprotodon.

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